Nigeria’s Dream Team VI have suddenly found themselves boxed in a tight corner after they squandered a two-goal lead in the first half against Egypt on Wednesday night in Mbour.
A win against Egypt would have guaranteed Nigeria passage to the semi-finals before the final round of group games this weekend.
Instead, Algeria, who eliminated Mali after they beat them 2-0 also on Wednesday, and Egypt are now in with a mathematical chance of advancing to the knockout rounds of this tournament, which also doubles as a qualifying tournament for next year’s Rio Olympics.
On Saturday afternoon, Nigeria face Algeria in Dakar, while Egypt square up against Mali, who have nothing to lose as they have already exited the competition.
A loss to a tactically-shrewd Algeria will see Nigeria crashing out, while a draw for a team whose defence has struggled thus far may not enough should Egypt beat Mali by at least 2-0.
“We are walking a tight rope now,” admitted ex-Nigeria international Garba Lawal, who was part of the historic gold-winning team to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
“We must be disturbed about how this team have collapsed in the second half in their first two matches, against Mali and Egypt. What is Siasia not telling the players at half time or are the boys not well conditioned?
“We were again lucky against Egypt because we could have lost the game.
“The defence has remained shaky despite the change the coach made for the match against Egypt.”
Former Nigeria international Jonathan Akpoborie further warned that Siasia’s team cannot afford to count on Mali to hold down Egypt on Saturday and so they have to go for broke in Dakar
“We have to beat Algeria to ensure our qualification because we cannot depend on Mali to hold Egypt,” he cautioned.